Prologue: The Best of Intentions
The season of the sun had transformed the streets of Arendell into a harsh and unwelcome place. The air remained dry, without so much as a hint of a breeze. Clouds of dust sprang up beneath hurried footsteps as the townspeople completed their morning errands. So intent on their business, they failed to notice the man entering their path. Several nearly tumbled to the ground in their efforts to avoid him, but no apologies were offered as he was jostled about. Dirt and sweat mingled within the creases of his face. Filthy, threadbare garments hung heavily on his frail form. The people of Arendell shrunk away from him, unwilling to be seen in his presence for more than a brief moment. To them he appeared to be nothing more than a beggar, idly roving the streets. But appearances can be deceiving.
He had not always been found in such a reduced state. Years ago, long before time had shown its face within his looking glass, the old man had been held in high esteem. A bard by trade, he had been sought out by lords and ladies alike. Now he drifted through the lands of Valencia, wishing only to be heard. Years had given him a power that only comes with time. Wisdom. The world he had come to know, though the stories could hardly be called his own, was not as it has once been.
Approaching one of the town's less savory alehouses, the old man seated himself on an empty crate. With a voice that carried the years of a much younger man, he began his story. It was a tale of things long past, but perhaps, if there were willing minds, also things yet to come.
There have always been the Gods. How can anything else exist with no Gods to create it? And so they fashioned this world and all the living beings that populate it. Yet they were not the Gods one might imagine. They quickly grew bored with the common and often tedious affairs of our race, and sought to escape their role as ill-tempered parents. It was these efforts that gave birth to the Elementals: Earth, Air, Fire and lastly Water, and with new guardians in place, the Gods departed Valencia.
What their creators lacked in compassion, the Elementals had in abundance. They bonded quickly with one another, a well balanced force that watched over the people of Valencia. Yet as time passed, the curse of immortality began to take hold, forcing the Elementals to watch as generation after generation of their children passed on. It was a fierce pain that lead the four to a firm agreement. They would honor their children, bestowing upon them the power to call upon the elements at need. At birth, an infant would be marked as Kin. From that moment on, he or she would be gifted with the ability to summon one of the elements along with the immortality that came with such power. The four scoured the world, searching for children worthy of their gifts. Yet, with the best of intentions, it was not long before conflict arose.
The old man paused for a moment, looking around to see that several townspeople had begun to linger. They averted their eyes, some casting glances over their shoulders, their faces twisted with a combination of judgment and worry. Taking a deep breath, he continued.
How does one define worth? For Water, the youngest and perhaps most immature of the four, it was simple. He flocked to the babes found suckling at the breast of beautiful mothers. Fire, ever quick to feel the fever of jealousy when Water directed his attention elsewhere, chose the infants of widowers, her warmth soothing their grieving hearts. In contrast, Earth was a generous spirit. She gave freely to those most in need, and watched them flourish under her care. Lastly was Air, and he was most thorough in his search. He was no stranger to vanity, pride, or empathy, yet he took extra care in making his decision. Finally, he selected those infants born into families shunned by all; the outcasts of Valencia. Again the years passed, and the Elementals watched the Kin grow and prosper as they learned to use their new power. It seemed a joyous achievement, but in their triumph they had failed to notice the rift growing between them.
Divided, they were no longer the loving companions and caretakers they had once been. Each had made the fatal mistake of a parent, who without understanding, loves one child more than another. Fire and Water could no longer calm the roiling passions within one another. As is the case with many lovers, jealousy surpassed Fire's love. She ran as far from Water as she could, and to this day a flame will not flourish where water has left its mark. Realizing his error, Water was overcome with grief and fled to the furthest reaches of our land. He threw himself down upon the sands, and the salt of his tears formed the seas as they rained down from the clouds above. Earth and Air too, although both more understanding than the others, were no longer able to settle their differences. Seeking an escape, Air rose to the skies, hovering just beyond Earth's reach. Earth, in great desperation created the mountains, longing to once again feel Air's embrace. Yet he regarded her with little more than chilly disdain. The four continued to love the Kin separately, though their touch became more rare, and as the years passed their strength became greatly diminished.
The Kin, though fewer than they had been, created brother and sister academies throughout Valencia. Within these institutions they trained and honed their abilities, striving for the rank of Elemental Priest and Priestess. Yet there were some who remembered the time of the Gods, and they too created places of holy gathering in their honor. These congregations became known as Members of Faith. At first, these two groups coexisted and caused one another no harm, but peace is a fickle beast. In time the Members of Faith became fanatical in their beliefs, feuding with any who disagreed. They proclaimed the Kin an abomination, and began their hunt. Even now, few of those marked at birth are willing to suffer through the training that would only serve to place a target on their backs. Would you? Would you accept the gift of immortality? Or would you turn your back on your neighbor? On your family?
The question hung in the air, a challenge issued to any who listened. The old man had done all he could. Gazing out upon the onlookers with a spark of hope, he watched as one by one the crowd dispersed. Men and women alike returned to their business, wearing startled expressions. They were clearly unsettled that they had become so immersed in a mere beggar's tale. With a clear sigh of disappointment, the old man rose to his feet. It was time to move on. Perhaps someone, somewhere would be willing to hear his story.